Sam Nunberg, Former Trump Aide, Becomes Unhinged On Live TV

Ken AshfordBreaking News, L'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

This just happened and I didn’t see it, so I’m pulling it together. Apparently Katy Tur of MSNBC was talking to Sam Nunberg, former campaign adviser to Trump. Nunberg just got a subpoena from Mueller. Nunberg lost it.  Here’s some video released by MSNBC:

Other accounts….

By the way, Preet is right about this:

And he keeps on going….

… I’m half-expecting the FBI to reply “OK”

And Nunberg, a lawyer, actually asked this of a new anchor —

Of course, Trump himself seems to be feeling pressure today (response is by the normally soft-spoken former CIA Director John Brennan (2013-2017)

UPDATE: The full Katy Tur interview:


Well, when alll was said and done, Nunberg did several interviews everywhere. Here’s how Axios summed it up:

MSNBC dubbed it “a historic interview.” CNN’s Jake Tapper called it “a wild edition of ‘The Lead.'” Drudge’s banner headline, with a cable screengrab: “cRaZy!”

Here’s what it was: A sad, epic meltdown — a troubled Trump flunky, pecked at and picked apart like roadkill on the Russia Interstate, in his last gasps of public fame and shame.

Sam Nunberg, an early Trump campaign aide who was fired in 2015 but has remained a vocal alumnus, melted down cable interview by cable interview yesterday as he declared his refusal (later retracted) to comply with a subpoena by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Finally, CNN’s Erin Burnett said during an on-set interview with Nunberg: “Talking to you, I have smelled alcohol on your breath. … I know it’s awkward.”

Nunberg replied he hadn’t consumed anything “besides my meds — antidepressants. Is that OK?”‘

In a cry for help, Nunberg kept trying to top himself, giving longer and longer interviews (including a call-in to cable’s NY1 in New York!).

Nunberg provided the subpoena anonymously to Jonathan Swan over the weekend, then gave it on the record to the N.Y. Times’ Maggie Haberman, then waved the wrinkled subpoena on-air with MSNBC’s Ari Melber, with a close-up shown on air.

And he contradicted every piece of news he made, telling AP last night: “I’m going to end up cooperating with them.”

That’s right. At the end of the day, he decided he should cooperate.  I thought the Melber interview was by far the best.

So what was it about? Attention? Was he drunk? Having a manic attack?  Who knows.  But I think this from the Atlantic might explain it:

It was just after 8:00 p.m. on Monday night, and the suddenly-famous Sam Nunberg had phoned me from Dorrian’s Red Hand Restaurant, a yuppie hangout on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, where he was reveling in his triumph.

After announcing earlier that day his intention to defy a grand-jury subpoena he says he received in the Russia investigation (“Arrest me,” he’d dared prosecutors), the former Trump aide had spent the day conducting a manic media blitz—popping up on multiple cable-news programs, granting interviews to dozens of journalists, and hijacking the news cycle with a car-crash procession of blustery soundbites. Legal experts were warning that his failure to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s  investigation could put him in serious legal jeopardy—but at this moment, it seemed, Nunberg was in a celebratory mood.


I won’t venture a guess as to which theory best explains his actions. But as anyone who’s known Nunberg for a while can attest, his behavior Monday doesn’t necessarily require special explanation. He’s been pulling stunts like this for years—this is just the first time he’s gotten the kind of audience he’s always craved.

I first met Nunberg in person in 2014, when he arranged for me to interview his boss, Donald Trump, on a flight from New Hampshire to New York. Thanks to an unexpected blizzard that effectively shut down LaGuardia Airport, we ended up flying to Palm Beach instead, where I spent 36 hours marooned at Mar-a-Lago with Trump as my host and Nunberg as my sidekick.

At the time, what most struck me about Nunberg was the way he seemed to mimic Trump’s speaking cadences (“fantastic,” “huge,” “loser”) and sartorial aesthetic (wide lapels, shiny ties, thick knots). But, as I would later learn, his true mentor was actually Roger Stone.

As Nunberg told it, he was sitting in a law-school class one day when someone emailed him a Weekly Standard profile of the notorious Republican operative. Stone was described in the piece as a “Nixon-era dirty trickster” and “professional lord of mischief,” and he was quoted talking about politics as “performance art … sometimes for its own sake.”

Nunberg was enthralled by the mythology surrounding Stone, and seemed determined to develop a similar reputation for himself. Soon enough, he was studying under the dark-arts master, and experimenting with his own low-stakes “dirty tricks.” The maxims of amorality espoused by his mentor—canonized as “Stone’s Rules”—included, “Admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack,” and, “Nothing is on the level.”


We only spoke for about 20 minutes Monday night—he said he was with his father, “who’s about to kill me,” and his lawyer—but as our conversation wound down, I tried to get Nunberg to grapple more seriously with the potential repercussions of his actions. I noted that Susan McDougal had spent 18 months in jail on contempt charges in the 1990s for failing to answer questions before a grand jury during Kenneth Starr’s investigation into President Bill Clinton.

“Have you thought this through?” I pressed him. “Are you actually willing to go to jail over this?”

“I’ve thought it through, and I don’t think Mueller’s willing to send me to jail,” he said. “If Mueller sends me to jail, I will laugh and I’ll be out within two days.”

How would you pull that off? I asked.

“Because I’ll give him my fucking emails!”

Some other, less Stone-ian political operative might have hesitated to admit that he’d just single-handedly dominated American political news for a day by issuing an empty threat he had no intention of following through with—but not Nunberg. He simply went on about the next stages of the stunt, musing about how he might be willing to spend a day or two in jail before handing over his emails just to “show that this whole thing is a joke and Mueller’s an asshole.”

Still, he doubted it would come to that. “They don’t know what to do,” he said, proudly. “Nobody’s done a spectacle like this before.”

I’m not sure anything Nunberg has done will show that Mueller is the asshole here